Meal Planning 101

This post is titled the way it is not because I think I can teach anyone anything about meal planning.  Rather, I’m hoping to learn a thing or two about it.  I know… the basics are incredibly simple.  Plan your meals.  Then cook them.  But just like starting a new exercise routine is incredibly simple (go out there… and do it) but still takes a lot of learning (what time works best for your body? how much is too much? do you work out better alone or in a group?), so it goes with meal planning.  Sure, the basic concept is simple.  But I’m not sure yet what works for me.  How much should I prep beforehand?  Should I plan a full five days of meals every week?  Should I shop once a week or two or three times a week?  Exactly how long do the different forms of produce last before they start going bad?

I’m terrible at cooking in general, and meal planning is included in that.  Rob and I eat dinner together most nights, and he generally does the cooking.  The problem is that he can be… indecisive.  And I can be… picky.  So we often sit around until 6:30 or 7:00pm, trying to decide what to eat.  When we finally do make a decision, we need to go shopping and then cook it which usually means eating dinner around 8:00pm.  This also means I’ve gotten hungry enough in the meantime to fill up on junk.

It’s a broken system.  Obviously.  And I really need to fix it during my Ironman training.  Fueling is important, and someone like me (who struggles with fueling while training anyway) needs to be especially careful to foster good habits.  Rob isn’t a huge fan of meal planning.  He’s pretty spontaneous, so the planning meals out a week ahead like that is not natural for him.  So I did something rare.  I took initiative.  I told him we were trying out meal planning because we really had to start eating earlier.  And then, I did.  I planned out our meals and went to the store to buy everything I needed.  (When you look at the picture below, keep in mind that we aren’t “clean eaters.”  We typically like vegetables, but we also like white pasta and cheese.  Rob is a vegetarian, so that’s the only “food rule” that limits meals we cook together.)

Shopping
Here we have everything from Brussels sprouts to the cheapest white hamburger buns in the store.

I decided to plan for a full five meals this time around, but I decided against doing any meal prep.  The main reason I decided against actually prepping anything was because we had a lot going on Sunday evening.  I knew I was up for a busy couple of days (family stuff), so I wanted to take advantage of Sunday afternoon to relax.

Monday: Dinner with Rob’s family

I should have anticipated this when meal planning, but I didn’t.  Whoops.  I guess we have a meal for the weekend?

Tuesday: Quiche

Quiche
I had to take a close-up picture so you can’t see how cluttered the counter is!

This is a pretty basic vegetarian quiche with potatoes, olives, spinach, and green onions.  I started dinner right when I got home from the gym just before 5:30pm.  Dinner was on the table by 7:15.  However, the quiche was baking for 45 minutes of that time, so it only took about an hour to prepare.  Making this meal would have been a much shorter process if I had prepped some of the ingredients beforehand.  Specifically, I would have cooked the potatoes and grated the cheese ahead of time.  Any other meal prep would have saved almost no time (like chopping the green onions) or would have affected the quality of the quiche (like making the pie crust ahead of time).  We had half the quiche left over, so a plus of this dinner is that it makes lunches the next day.

Wednesday: Sloppy Joes

SloppyJoe
Sloppy Joe with hot sauces (for Rob, not me!)

Once we decided to go with Sloppy Joes, I was going to send Rob to the store for Fritos.  I specifically didn’t buy them when I went shopping on Saturday because I knew they wouldn’t last through the week.  However, he was on it and informed me he was going to go pick up some Fritos (he lives right around the corner from the grocery store).  I asked him to pick up some baby carrots while he was there to round out the meal a little.  I started this meal at 5:00pm and it was ready before 5:30.  Since we used fake ground beef, I just had to heat up the mixture.  Plus, while it was heating up, I was able to clean up the kitchen and just stir it occasionally.

Thursday: Poor Man’s Casserole

PoorMansCasserole

Rob grew up eating this meal.  It’s basically shepherd’s pie, but since it was called Poor Man’s Casserole in his family, it’s called that here as well.  Rob was in charge of cooking this one.  Basically, it’s vegetables (Brussels sprouts, green beans, and asparagus), the leftover Sloppy Joe stuff, and mashed potatoes layered and heated in the oven.  This meal takes a while.  Rob started it around 4:45pm, and it wasn’t on the table until 7:15.  However, most of that time was spent boiling the potatoes and then baking the dish after assembling it.  If I wanted to save time, I could make the mashed potatoes a few days ahead of time.  If I did meal prep on Sunday and planned this meal for Monday, I could assemble the whole thing, keep it in the fridge overnight, and just pop it into the oven Monday evening.

Friday: Bachelor pasta

Dinner
I took a photo of this meal with Rob’s phone, but he deleted it because he thought I had grabbed it already. 😦  So this is a fancier version of the same dish that Rob made a couple of months ago.

Bachelor pasta—two parts pasta, one part garlic, three parts Parmesan cheese.  This is a staple for Rob and me.  It’s an ever-evolving dish.  When we first started dating, it was just sautéed garlic, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano tossed with linguine.  Now, it includes green onions and Italian parsley as well (and cherry tomatoes when we’re feeling rich, which we weren’t this week).  This meal took about an hour to prepare, but it shouldn’t have taken that long.  I cooked the garlic too long (burned it… whoops!) and threw off the whole process.  My guess is that this would normally take around 45 minutes to prepare.  That time could be cut down another 5-10 minutes if I had chopped the garlic beforehand or if I had a garlic press.

Last week helped me get an idea about what kind of meal planning techniques will work best for Rob and me.  Overall, meal planning was a success.  We ate dinner much earlier than usual the entire week.  There was no hemming and hawing about, trying to decide what to eat.  I actually cooked and felt like I was being a contributing member of a relationship.  And I didn’t eat potato chips and jelly beans for dinner even once!

In the future, I may make some changes.  I may plan for just four meals instead of five.  It’s not uncommon for us to have dinner with family or to have some other sort of routine-buster (such as feeling lazy and getting burritos), so planning for four days would allow a little spontaneity.  I also won’t worry so much about having everything on hand at the beginning of the week.  Rob is lucky enough to live less than a block away from a grocery store, and there’s no reason not to take advantage of that fact.  It was no trouble to send him to the store while I was cooking dinner (or vice versa).  I noticed that on Friday, the Italian parsley I got over the weekend was looking a little worse for the wear.  In the future, I’ll go shopping for the staples over the weekend, but I may hold off on some of the vegetable matter with a shorter shelf-life until I actually plan to use it.  I also noticed that, even when you plan for it, cooking is kind of a pain.  The only really effortless meal was Sloppy Joes.  It would be ideal to make some sort of casserole over the weekend that I can just put in the oven for one meal so that Rob and I can have one evening “off.”  Basically, I think the next time I use meal planning (which isn’t this week, unfortunately!), I will be able to approach it will a little more information to make it more effective for my own personal self.

Any meal planning tips for a newbie like me?

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Weekly Recap (3/21-3/27)

Monday: Swim—2750 yards
I set my alarm wrong (5:50am instead of 4:50am), but I ended up waking up around 5:30am on my own.  Things were a little dicey, but I made it to the pool by 6:00am.  Despite my hurried morning, I felt strong in the pool, and I nailed the tough workout:
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 closed fist
4 x 50 10-kick roll
*4 x 200 @ 3:30
50 easy
*4 x 200 @ 3:30
50 easy
*50 fast
We were supposed to hold a hard pace for the 200s and, in the end, add up all the starred times to get a 1650 seed time.  I am less-than-good about remembering previous paces for intervals, so I often just kind of go for it on the first interval and choose my time based on that.  My first interval was just under three minutes, but I knew I had swum it a bit too fast, so I decided to aim for under 3:05.  Most of my 200s were hovering around three minutes, but the last couple were just under 3:05.  I managed to swim that final 50 in a surprisingly quick 36 seconds for a total time of 24:44.  Could I really swim a straight 1650 that fast in a race setting?  Well… I don’t think so, but I’ve surprised myself before, so who knows?

Tuesday: Strength—30 minutes; Run—30 minutes (3.85 miles); Bike—30 minutes; 8-minute abs
Of all things that can be frustrating, I was surprised that on Tuesday, it was my strength training.  I had not gotten enough sleep the past couple of nights, so I was tired and cranky.  Add to that the fact that my calves were cripplingly sore from the elliptical on Sunday and thus did not help much with stabilization, and I kept tipping over during my dead lifts and squats.  Because it was sleeting/snowing/raining and windy as all get out, I ended up doing both my run and my ride inside.  I did my run during lunch.  After a short walk as a warmup, I set the treadmill to 7.7mph and went for thirty minutes.  My knee started hurting a tiny bit early on and I was prepared to stop if it got worse.  However, instead of getting worse, it actually got better as I warmed up.  I kept my cadence high, and I noticed as I started to get tired, my tendency was to lengthen my stride and drop my cadence.  That’s a habit I need to break.  Additionally, I still need to adapt to a faster cadence.  While a quicker cadence is typically more efficient, it’s still something I’m not used to which means it’s not as efficient for me yet.  I’ll get there.  I stopped by the other gym after work and did an easy thirty minute spin while finishing up the This American Life episode I started on the treadmill.  I also did some core work.

Wednesday: Swim—1900 yards; Strength—15 minutes
On Wednesday at Masters, we work on various strokes besides freestyle.  I typically avoid Wednesdays for that reason, but it worked best for my schedule this week.  So, I bit the bullet and went, knowing the workout would include more than just freestyle.  When I got there, we actually had the option to do either open turns or the workout.  I was tempted to just work on open turns, but I knew a workout was the better option for me that day.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
10 x 50 drill, swim (at least two for each stroke)
12 x 75 kick, drill, swim (rotate through all four strokes)
100 easy
Because other strokes are hard and I am slow, I only made it through 9 ⅓ of the 75s before I ran out of time and needed to cool down.  It was a great workout, though, and I was tired by the time I was done.  With the possible exception of the butterfly, I’ve also made improvements in the other strokes (backstroke and breaststroke) since starting masters, despite my desperate attempts to avoid them.  I can’t imagine ever needing to use these other strokes, but if nothing else, they serve as a good way to mix things up, work slightly different muscles, and improve my overall comfort-level in the water.  After work, I did my short strength routine.

Thursday: Run—2 x 30 minutes (3.55 and 3.78 miles); Strength—30 minutes; 8-minute abs
I tried to run for an hour in the morning.  Like my last hour run, I stopped and stretched at 15 minutes which got rid of the beginnings of knee pain for another few minutes.  However, after I stopped and stretched at 30 minutes, the knee pain was back after a few strides.  Rather than push it like I could have (the pain was minimal), I decided to just stop.  The last time I ran an hour, I felt I overdid it, so I decided I’d stop and try to run an additional 30 minutes in the evening.  Instead of finishing my run, I got to work early and did some strength work (which went much more smoothly when my calves weren’t so sore I couldn’t stand up straight).  My second run actually felt a little better.  I didn’t feel like I needed to stop to stretch at 15 minutes, and while there was a little pain throughout the run, it didn’t seem to get any worse once it started.  I did some ab work in the evening as well.

Friday: Bike—1:02:46 (16.18 miles)
I tried to take this ride a little easier than I did last week because I wanted to feel strong on my long ride the next day.  It was a bit chilly–48° and breezy—so I wore tights, toe warmers, knit gloves, and a base layer.  I was a little warm when I was climbing at the start of the ride and my hands were starting to get a little uncomfortably cold by the end of the ride, but other than that, I felt perfect in regards to temperature.  I could feel myself missing the rest day I normally take near the end of the work week, though.  I felt a bit sluggish, and I couldn’t help but think as I was finishing up on my bike, “I’m going to do this for over twice as long tomorrow?!”

Saturday: Bike—2:04:19 (32.39 miles); Strength—15 minutes
Shortly after breakfast, I did my abridged strength routine.  I would have preferred to do this a few hours after my bike ride, but I wasn’t sure how much time I’d have in the afternoon and evening, so I decided to play it safe and get it done in the morning.  I did this over at Rob’s place and he joined in with the last few exercises for fun.  He commented on how hard they were which was validating!  It took a while to get out on the bike, and once we did get out, it was pretty chilly.  I didn’t go out for as long this week as I did last week.  It was a little too cold to try Emigration, and I ended up basically doing an out-and-back twice, which isn’t necessarily the most interesting ride.  Still, it felt nice to get out on the bike, and it was nice to have Rob for company for part of it.  My legs felt stronger than they did Friday, though not quite as good as they did last week.  I ended up eating one Honey Stinger waffle on the ride, as well as drinking a bottle of Skratch hydration mix.  Skratch is pretty good.  When added to a bottle of water, it makes a lightly sweetened beverage that is made with real fruit and contains important electrolytes.  Mine was raspberry flavored, and it really did actually taste like raspberries.  I noticed I really just wanted water at the beginning of the ride, but the Skratch started to taste better as the ride went on.

BikeFriends
Our bikes are friends. 🙂

Sunday: REST; 8-minute abs
After I did my core work in the morning, it was a complete (and needed!) rest day.  I had a lot going on in the rest of my life on Sunday… it was Easter, so I had church and family stuff.  Plus, it was Rob’s and my third anniversary, so we had dinner plans.  This rest day welcomes in in a more restful week.  I’m taking a recovery week next week because it’s my last chance to do so before official Ironman training starts.  Sleep, rest, and food will be the name of the game.  I’ll still be working out some, but I’m cutting back on everything except my strength training.

Gait Analysis

After dealing with IT band pain for about six weeks and listening to Rob tell me I should go see a doctor about it for just about as long, I finally decided he was right.  It wasn’t worth risking a $700+ investment to try to save $100 dollars by not seeing a professional.

So I did a quick search of my tri club’s Facebook page for a good physical therapist and saw something interesting.  A physical therapist right near my work offered free running analyses to members of my triathlon club.  Free?!  That’s only my favorite word!  I quickly called and made an appointment for 6:30am the next morning.

Because I needed to get in my strength routine before the running analysis, it was an early, early morning for me.  I was up at 4:35am, which would have been more doable had it not been just a few days after the time change.  But I managed to wake up and make it to my office’s gym in time to do my workout there and make it to my appointment on time.  David, the physical therapist, was very personable, and I felt at ease right away.  I tend to feel pretty uncomfortable and awkward around people, so the fact that I felt at ease in this new situation speaks to his bedside manner (is it still called that if someone is a physical therapist and not a medical doctor?).

He asked me a few basic questions, and I told him about the IT band pain I’d had recently.  Because it was early and I wasn’t functioning all that well, though, I told him it was on the left side when it was on the right side.  I’m really not good with rights and lefts, and I must have just gotten confused and turned around.  The test itself was simple enough.  I jumped on a treadmill and set it to 7.6 mph.  David measured my cadence and took some videos of me running, both from the back and from the side.  I ended up running for about four minutes, and then we discussed the data.  It was surprisingly simple, and he e-mailed me the still shots of me running afterwards so I can even include them here for reference.

We went over two shots from the back—one of my left foot striking and one of my right foot striking.  We discussed the following measurements on each side: the angle that my opposite hip dropped when striking the ground, the position of my knee in relation to a straight line between my hip and heel, and the position of my foot in relation to the midline.

BehindRight

My right side actually looks pretty solid on most of those points.  The angle of the hip drop should be less than 10° and my foot hits right on the midline where it should be hitting.  As you can see, though, my knee turns in a bit instead of staying in a straight line.  David said this could be part of what is causing the IT band pain.

BackLeft

My left side looks a little worse, despite the fact that I haven’t struggled much with pain on the left side.  Especially after looking at the shots from the side, I suspect I may have been unconsciously compensating for pain.  I tried to run normally, but that’s easier said than done.  On the left side, you can see my hip drop angle is right at the 10° mark that it shouldn’t go over.  No real problem there, but it’s not quite as good as my right side.  On this side, my knee is in line with the rest of my leg, but my foot crosses over the midline too much.

BackBounce

We also went over how bouncy I am when I run, or how much up-down movement there is for each stride.  As you can see, I’m moving up and down about 12.5cm every stride.  I wish I could recall exactly how much I should be moving, but I recall I was over the ideal.  David didn’t seem all too concerned about it, though, and said that my bouncing up and down as much as I was wasn’t as much of a problem as it would be if I were shorter.

SideLeft

The video from the side is where my main problem with my stride appeared.  Again, my left foot strike is worse than my right foot strike, quite possibly because I was subconsciously changing my stride with my right foot due to my recent pain.  With my left foot, you can see that the angle at which my heel first hits the ground is 14°.  That’s too much.  What that reveals is that my foot is probably too far forward and my leg is probably too straight when it hits.  You can see that the angle of my bent knee is around 8°.  It should be around 20°.  A straighter leg causes a more jarring impact and also forces your knee to absorb that impact instead of your quads. (Oh, I’m also standing up too straight and don’t have much of a forward lean.)

SideRight

My right side is better.  My foot is at an 8° angle when my heel hits the treadmill which results in my knee having a much better (though still a little sub-par) angle of 15°.  Again, I do not have enough of a forward lean, which is something I’ve heard since high school.

As we discussed my running mechanics, David also noted that my cadence was a little slow.  The nebulous “they” say running cadence should be 180 steps per minute.  David said his opinion was that the metric is a little restrictive.  Apparently, that study was originally done on elite marathoners, and he noted that we are not all elite marathoners.  Still, my cadence was 172 steps per minute which he thought was a little slow.  So he suggested I try upping it to 178 steps per minute.

He had me hop on the treadmill to try it out.  We set the pace back to 7.6 mph and he turned on a metronome at 178bpm and had me match it with my pace.  Lo and behold, my over-exaggerated heel strike was fixed!  Basically, when I sped up my cadence, I shortened my stride which caused my foot to strike closer to my body and which transformed me into a mid-foot striker.  Magic!  While it didn’t fix everything with my stride (my lack of a forward lean is just as prominent as ever), most of the more troublesome aspects looked much better.

So, with a little advice and some encouragement, he sent me out the door.  I asked him when I should come in for more IT band help if this advice and my strength training didn’t clear it up, and he suggested I give it two weeks.  If, after stretching, strength work, and form improvement, I was not seeing any improvement in two weeks, I should come back in.  I still wanted to take that week of training very easy in regards to running.  After the longer run the previous weekend, I felt my IT band could use a little rest.  A couple of days later, I did a 15 minute run on the treadmill using a metronome.  I could feel the difference in my stride, and my knee held up really well.  I was feeling positive, like there was a light at the end of the injury tunnel.

Then, over the weekend, I went for a long bike ride.  I didn’t feel my IT band at all during the ride, which isn’t surprising because I’ve never felt it on a bike, even at its worst.  The next day, I headed out for a maybe-hour-long run with the intent of stopping early if I felt pain.  Much to my surprise, even with a quicker tempo, I started feeling pain literally two minutes into the run.  After five, I realized it was going to keep getting worse, so I just stopped and walked back home.  I was at a loss after this.  Since this was the worst pain I’d had in weeks, it made sense to suspect that my long bike ride had something to do with it (correlation is not causation, but it is cause for suspicion).  However, since cycling didn’t seem to hurt, or even irritate, my IT band.  My only guess (which could be completely wrong) is that my legs were fatigued enough on Sunday from my long ride the day before that it caused my form to disintegrate faster than usual.  So, since I was told to wait two weeks anyway, I decided to avoid doing my runs on days after a long or hard bike ride.

Despite this last-ditch tactic, I get the feeling I’ll be calling up the physical therapist on Friday and scheduling an appointment for early next week.

Five month checkup

Five months?! Nope.  Nopenopenope.  Except… yep.  My Ironman really is only five months away.  It’s terrifying and exciting all at once.  When I think about it logically, I think I’m in good shape.  I just recently ran a marathon (run portion, check) and earlier this year I did a swim workout that was 2.5 miles long (swim portion, check).  Additionally, my recent return to cycling went better than I expected (bike portion, getting there).  However, my visceral reaction when I think about the fact that my Ironman is five short months away is just a few levels shy of panic. At least the panic will serve as good motivation when the training hours ramp up!

Physical

Fitness:
I think my fitness right now is stronger than my recent performances indicate.  Recovering from a marathon takes time, and I’m trying to be patient with myself when an 8:30/mile pace feels hard and when my knee starts aching a bit after 30 minutes.  I just try to remember that this winter, I was in the best distance-running shape of my life and that fitness built over four months like that does not just evaporate, even when you need to take some time off due to a bum knee.  I built a strong base this winter, and it’s still there.  It helps that I’ve maintained more of my cycling fitness that I thought I would.  Some of that might be due to my awesome new bike, but I’ll take the credit anyway.  I think my rapid swimming progress has come to an end, but it was a great ride, and I’m pleased at where I’ve ended up.

General health:
My knee is still bothering me.  But anyone keeping up with this blog knows that.  I’m doing what I can to be responsible and get better.  I just need to focus on what I can control.  Otherwise, my health has been solid.  I didn’t have to deal with any colds or other sicknesses this month.  My weight has generally been pretty stable.  More importantly, my appetite has been pretty stable.  As I’m paying more attention to what helps my appetite and what suppresses it, I’m getting better at maintaining a healthy appetite and eating enough to fuel what I do.  (Spoiler alert: Turns out if I try to eat the exact same lunch every single weekday for a months, I end up not eating much of my lunch after the first few weeks.)

Mental

This was a tough month mentally.  I was coming off a very bad, very disappointing marathon and dealing with an overuse injury to boot.  Not only that, but I was still dealing with the financial fallout of having my car stolen, and I had an upheaval in my social life that was… unpleasant.  Plus, it was still winter.  I am not ashamed to admit that I am a delicate flower emotionally, so all these unrelated stressors took their toll on me.  Fortunately, I think I’m on the upward path again.  It sounds strange, but being able to ride my bike helps.  Of the three disciplines, cycling is the one that brings me the most happiness, and spring means that long rides are both feasible and enjoyable again.  I don’t always have control over the stressors in my life, but one thing I can be consistent about is getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night.  I am not one of those people who can function on six hours a night regularly.  Sleep is vital to my mental health, and as my training hours increase, I need to make sure that I don’t steal those extra hours from the time I normally spend sleeping.

Superlatives

Longest swim: 2500 yards

Longest ride: 42.65 miles

Longest run: 7.17 miles

Most encouraging workout: My 40+ mile bike ride this past weekend.  I did not know what to expect when I got back into cycling after spending so little time on my bike this winter.  I did not expect to be able to bust out a forty mile ride and stay strong the whole time.  A couple of years ago during the summer did my half Ironman, I rode a very similar course as the one I rode today and I was absolutely wrecked at the end.  It was a nice reminder of the cycling progress I’ve made over the past couple of years.  Sure, I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m starting from a much better position than I thought I would be!

Most discouraging workout: My pathetic five minute run.  I’ll be honest.  I cried a bit after this workout.  I just feel completely out of control, like all the good decisions and rest in the world won’t actually do anything to make my knee begin to feel better.  At this point, I’m pretty convinced I’ll be doing a swim, bike, walk in August.

Average time per sport per week

Swimming: 116.25 minutes

Cycling: 178.75 minutes

Running: 31.25 minutes

Other: 90 minutes

TimePerSport05

Looking to the future

Official Ironman training is almost upon me.  For the next few weeks, my goal is to prepare my body so that I can transition seamlessly into my Ironman training plan.  In regards to swimming, this mostly means maintaining.  For cycling, it means simply getting out there on my bike and racking up some miles.  For running, it means primarily working on fixing my IT band and secondarily trying to get some miles in so that I’m not overwhelmed by my long runs during my training plan.  I plan on continuing with my strength work and implement some form changes to get my IT band back in working order.  Additionally, I want to get some other aspects of my life in order, mainly meal-planning and sleep.  Jellybeans are not dinner!  And I cannot survive on 6-7 hours of sleep a night.  Some people can, but I am not one of them.

MountainsSky
The spring colors aren’t quite popping yet on the flora, but look at that sky!

Weekly Recap (3/14-3/20)

Monday: Swim—Masters swim team; 8-minute abs
The coach was gone on Monday which usually means that I put in a shoddy effort.  However, this time, the three of us in the lane actually managed to have a good workout, mostly because we just decided to swim straight through the rest of the hour after warming up.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
50 closed fist
200 swim
35(ish) minute swim
I worked pretty hard during this workout considering there wasn’t a coach present as a form of external motivation.  Considering I will be swimming 2.4 miles straight in a few months, an impromptu long(ish), hard swim was probably a good training decision.  Some of my swim workouts during Ironman training are shorter intervals, but more of them have longer repeats of 400yds or more.  Since masters workouts are mostly shorter intervals, getting some longer swims in (especially at a solid effort) will help me transition into my Ironman training. And my shoulders were stiff and sore the rest of the day which tells me I worked hard enough to get stronger.

Tuesday: Strength—30 minutes; Bike—45 minutes
I got up very, very early (4:35am!) to drive to my office and do my strength routine.  I had to get up so early because I had a running gait analysis!  It was very enlightening and very useful, but I won’t go into detail here because I plan on writing up a post about it this week.  Anyway, the strength routine is continuing to go well.  It’s getting easier, and while I’m not about to add weight or reps yet, I can see myself doing that in the future.  I spent most of the day alternating between tired hyperness and tired exhaustion.  Even though I went to bed early the previous night (before 9:00pm), I still had trouble dealing with such an early wakeup call that soon after the time change.  After work, I headed to the gym for a bike ride.  It was a bit too cold to do an outside ride, partly because I no longer have giant gloves and foot covers (they were, surprise, in my car), but also because I was feeling lazy and not up for the cold and potential rain.  The indoor bike was okay.  I listened to a great episode of This American Life in which the main story was about a scammer/liar.  I’m fascinated by people who invent lives and identities, so it was the perfect episode for me to listen to.

Wednesday: REST; 8-minute abs
I was going to take Thursday off, but Wednesday worked better for me this week because we made dinner plans with Rob’s parents.  I tried to sell this to Rob as evidence that I’m totally flexible and totally not obsessive about my workouts.  Somehow, he didn’t buy it.  I had managed to get to bed early on Tuesday night and didn’t have to get up until 6:00am which was wonderful.  I actually woke up on my own about 5:40 or so feeling perfectly rested.  While the day in general was a bit of a bummer in general, we had a great dinner with Rob’s parents and a nice evening overall.  Plus, I actually managed to get my core work in.

Thursday: Strength—30 minutes; Run—15 minutes (1.91 miles); Bike—59:48 (16.2 miles)
My strength workout went well in the morning.  I’m able to get through the exercises more quickly than I did when I first started, so I may add another stretch-type exercise to the end of the routine (along the line of hip thrusts or leg lifts as opposed to single-leg squats).  After the strength work, I hopped on the treadmill for 15 minutes and tried to put the advice I got at my running analysis earlier in the week to the test.  The run went well and felt pretty good.  I could feel my IT band getting a little antsy at the end, but I do think it felt better.  Hopefully that’s not just wishful thinking!  It was a fairly warm and sunny day, so I was excited to get out on the bike.  I can’t believe how fast my bike is.  I was finding it pretty easy to maintain 19-20mph with no incline and a light tailwind.  That’s not all the quick in the scheme of things, but it’s fast for me.  I ended up making it 16 miles on this ride, and considering that a large portion of the ride goes through city streets with stoplights and stop signs, that’s quite good for me.  I’m always surprised at how much the stopping and starting that happens while riding in the city negatively affects the overall average speed, even when the timer does stop when you come to a standstill.

Friday: Swim—1250 yards, leisure laps; Strength—15 minutes
We often do something a little fun/different in masters on Friday, and today that “something different” was a shallow water obstacle course (for lack of a better word) through the kiddie pool.
200 reverse IM
200 IM kick
200 inverse IM
6 x 50 kick, swim
4 x 25 underwater
50 easy
5 x kiddie pool circuit
Whirlpool running
2 x 100 easy
The basic course for the leisure laps was against the current in the lazy river, through the shallow end of the pool, out of the pool, over the bridge, up the stair and down the slide (!), then back to the lazy river to start the second lap.  I actually did take my splits for each of these laps: 1:51, 1:50, 1:48, 1:41, 1:41.  The reason the final two laps were a bit faster is because I passed the woman in front of me during the shallow water running section (long legs are awesome!).  I had been pretty much right behind her for the first few laps which meant I had to wait ten seconds to go down the slide after she went down.  We were only going to do four laps, but as I finished the fourth, the coach told me to do another.  Not cool, man.  Not cool.  This was a tough workout, and my legs were shot at the end of the five laps.  I was trying to do the whirlpool running quickly, but it was not happening.  I was slow as molasses.  Still, it was a good workout for my legs and easy on my knee.  In the evening, I did a short strength workout.

Saturday: Bike—2:46:22 (42.65 miles); 8-minute abs
After a relaxing morning of sitting around and eating jellybeans, I headed out on my bike around noon.  I left with the intention of doing at least two hours, but more than that if I was feeling it.  The first thirty minutes or so, I thought it was going to be a struggle of a ride.  My legs were feeling a bit heavy, and I thought how nice it would have been if we had swum more on Friday and had a little less of a lower body workout.  I knew I was going to be out for a while, so I tried to settle in to and easy, effortless pace.  By the time I made it to the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, I felt a bit better.  I ate a Honey Stinger waffle and headed back north.  I took a different route back north.  The road runs right along the mountains, so the view was gorgeous.  I felt great during this part of the ride, and it flew by.  Before I knew it, I was back north and had to decide if I wanted to turn left and go home or turn right and start climbing Emigration Canyon.  Because I had only been out for about 1:35, I turned right.  I was only going to climb for a bit before turning back around and heading home.  I was shocked at how quickly I reached Ruth’s Diner, the point where I turned around last week.  Since I was feeling strong, I decided I would ride until I hit two hours and then turn around.  But I was making progress faster than I anticipated.  When I hit two hours, I wasn’t that far from the top of Emigration.  I stopped and ate my second Honey Stinger waffle and continued to the top.  For the last mile or so, the grade jumps up a bit.  I had forgotten how tough this little section was.  Usually, I try to push it hard up this final incline, but I tried to hold back.  I’m glad I did because I started to feel my long ride on the way down.  If it weren’t all downhill from the top of Emigration, I would have been struggling on the way back.  Once I got back, I crashed more than I thought I would.  Turns out that going out for 40 miles on the second long ride of the year take a lot out of you.  A shower and a short nap later, though, and I was feeling much better.  I also did core work in the evening.

EmigrationMarch
Still some snow up there!

Sunday: Run—5 minutes; Strength—15 minutes; Elliptical—30 minutes
I set off for my run this morning, and within five minutes, my knee was starting to hurt pretty noticeably.  Since this week is all about taking it easy on my knee, I just stopped and walked back to my place.  I am getting so frustrated with this stupid IT band thing.  It’s like I keep trying to do all the smart, responsible things and everything just falls apart anyway.  Story of my life.  Anyway, I sulked like a champ the rest of the morning.  When I got back from church, though, I pulled myself together and did my short strength routine and then went to the gym for thirty nondescript minutes on the elliptical.  I tried to keep my cadence up on the elliptical and focused on moving quickly at a lower resistance instead of slowly at a high resistance.

IT Band Rehab

Disclaimer: I’m not a physical therapist or a doctor or a trainer.  I’m just your average citizen with an Internet connection. Special thanks to Brittany, Rheagan, and Allison, who pointed me in the direction of their own blog posts or strength/flexibility routines.

Recently, my IT band and I have been fighting.  I tell I’m going for a run.  It tells me it would rather go on a bike ride.  I tell it to stop being such a big baby.  It insists, in a very big way, that it is not a baby and that I should take it seriously.

Because I plan on doing an Ironman in August and because it reached a point where I was pretty debilitated, I decided I needed to get my IT band under control.  So I turned to the Internet.  Almost everything I read regarding IT band agreed on one thing—the root cause is weak hip and glute muscles.  Still, I was a bit surprised because I had never had IT band issues before, despite running a lot in high school and college.  However, a few more Internet searches taught me that it is common for cyclists to have unbalanced musculature where their quads are much stronger than their glutes and hamstrings.  With all the cycling I’ve done the past couple of years, I suspect this is what happened to me.

So, I’ve been approaching IT band recovery from a few different angles.

First, I’ve been trying to limit my IT band irritation in my daily life.  I noticed pretty quickly that things like crossing my legs and putting weird pressure on my knee when sitting irritate my IT band.  So I’ve been trying to sit like a civilized adult, with my feet on the ground in front of me.  I even lowered my chair at work because I felt the angle of my knees was better with the chair lower.  This has been a huge struggle for me.  I wiggle constantly, so not being able to cross my legs, pull my knee up under me, and just generally sit like a three-year-old during a two hour sermon has been an adjustment, to say the least.  It’s taken a surprising amount of self-control to do this.  Additionally, I have not worn any shoes with even the slightest heel.  This isn’t much of a problem for me, although it did mean that I missed the last few weeks of boot weather because my boots have a short heel.

Secondly, I’ve drastically reduced the number of miles I’m running.  I’ve been trying to “test” my knee out with shorter runs.  So far, that process has gone fairly well.  Half an hour seems to be fine.  An hour is probably still too much as this point.  It’s hard for me to know exactly how much pain is too much, but if the pain lasts after I’m done running, then I generally assume I did too much.  I’m also being more conscientious about stretching and warming up before going out for a run.  In fact, I’ve actually purchased a tennis ball and have begun to do the poor-man’s version of foam rolling with it.  I’m hoping it will keep me running while I address the underlying issues.

Most importantly, I’ve been working on building up my hip and glute strength, which is most likely the root of my IT band pain.  I’ve been taking advantage of the time before my official Ironman training program starts to focus on strength training for my hips and glutes.  I’ve been doing a longer routine two times a week and a shorter routine two times a week.  The longer routine takes me 30-40 minutes, while the shorter one takes me about 15 minutes.  When my Ironman training starts, I’ll probably cut out one of the longer sessions because of time constraints.

Long routine:
3 x 10 single leg squat (each leg)
3 x 10 single leg deadlift (each leg)
3 x 20 alternating side lunges
2 x 10 standing hip abduction (each leg)
2 x 10 standing hip adduction (each leg)
20 hip thrusts (both legs and each leg)
2 x 20 leg lifts (each leg)

Abridged routine:
3 x 10 single leg squat (each leg)
MYRTL routine
20 leg lifts (each leg)

Weights
I’ll be honest… I was pretty okay with the idea of never using these guys again.

My longer routine is mostly body weight.  However, I use five pound dumbbells for the single leg deadlifts and use a weight machine (with just a few pounds) for the standing hip abduction and adduction exercises.  With the single leg squats and side lunges, I have to focus to make sure I’m working the correct muscles (my glutes as opposed to my quads).  Using correct squat form (knees not extending past toes, for instance) ensures I’m using the correct muscles.  The first few times, I paid attention to where I was feeling the burn and to which muscles were sore the next day.  I’m confident that I’m (mostly) working the muscles I want to.

My abridged routine is much shorter (obviously!).  I do some glute strength work, but the MYRTL routine focuses more on flexibility throughout the glutes and hips than strength.  I was actually already familiar with a lot of the exercises from the MYRTL routine from when I was a hurdler, so I enjoy doing it.

(By the way, I’m not including images of me doing these exercises because you can find demonstrations of all these exercises with much better form with a simple Google search.)

This new strength work adds an extra hour and a half to my weekly load of workouts.  Even with my current pre-Ironman load, that adds a lot to my plate.  Last week, my time working out added up to eight and a half hours… and things aren’t even serious yet!  I do plan on cutting out one of my longer sessions once Ironman training picks up, but the strength work will still add an extra hour of exercise on top of my 10-18 hour training weeks.  However, I know that this kind of strength training is as important to my Ironman goal right now as cycling and swimming are, and it’s that understanding that is keeping me motivated to continue with my self-created IT band rehab, even though it’s not something that I enjoy.

Weekly Recap (3/07-3/13)

Monday: Swim—2200yds; 8-minute abs
Another Monday, another 5:00am wakeup call.  I tried to work on my new and improved flip turn during the sets today, and I actually managed to do just that.  I was worried I’d revert back to my previous, completely wrong flip turn form as I got tired and stopped focusing, but I think I held on pretty well.  The nice thing about doing something the right way is that it’s often actually somewhat natural and therefore easier to get the hang of.  It was a good workout, but we didn’t get a lot of yards because of there was a good deal of kicking involved:
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 10 beat barrel kick
4 x 50 closed fist
10 x 100 @ 1:50
50 easy
2 x 75 kick
50 easy
We were supposed to try to swim the 100s in a specific goal time.  I set my goal time for 1:35, but I exceeded that expectation and hit them all somewhere between 1:28-1:32.  We did a similar workout a few months ago.  I revisited my description of that one, and it was a lot harder for me than this one.  This workout was tough, but not gut-wrenching, wind-sucking tough.  I didn’t document what my average time was the last time I did a workout similar to this one, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t swimming my 100s nearly as fast last time.  Anyway, I think my next big area of focus for my stroke will be my kick as I think it is the weakest part of my stroke right now.  I’ve also noticed that I struggle with breath control.  I think this is more of a matter of discomfort than training or ability.  When my lungs start to burn, I want air.  I know my breath control has improved since I started attending Masters, but I know it has a long way to go.

Tuesday: Strength—30 minutes; Bike—60 minutes
I got up and went through my strength routine at the office gym.  While doing my single-leg squats and single-leg deadlifts, I noticed that I was much better at balancing on my right leg than on my left leg.  I got a bit nostalgic because the reason for this is (I believe) that my left leg was my lead leg when I did hurdles, which means I would take off from my right leg which meant it was always a little stronger and always a little better at stabilizing.  The fact that that holds true when it’s been years since I’ve done any sort of training even remotely related to hurdling was a reminder that some level of base fitness sticks around for a very long time.  After work, I got on my new bike for my first real ride!  It was a warm and sunny day, so all I needed were gloves and arm warmers.  After a few weeks of the stationary bike, I felt amazing to be out there moving at all.  Oh, and my new bike felt amazing.  I feel a little hyperbolic for saying this, but I think I felt faster already!  The shifting was great, the handling was great, and the fit was great.  I got out for a full hour and was only just starting to get chilly during the last ten minutes or so when the sun was low and I was mostly riding in shadows.

Wednesday: Strength—30 minutes; Run—30 minutes (3.88 miles); Bike—30 minutes
I had a lot going on today.  Again, I got to work early and did my strength routine.  I can feel myself getting better at doing the exercises and thus getting a better workout from them.  Progress.  I was also going to run before work, but it was dark and rainy, so I decided to hold off and go on a run during lunch instead.  This turned out to be a great decision.  It was sunny and 50°—absolutely perfect!  My knee felt better during this run, though I did still feel it a bit during the latter half of the run.  I actually wore my old shoes for this run.  I’ll wear my new shoes for my run this weekend and (hopefully) see if my shoes are contributing to the problem.  I was frustrated while I was out running because I could not stop thinking about how slow I was compared to a month ago.  I figured I was running about an 8:15/mile pace and I was pretty tired, even after just thirty minutes.  However, once I got back and mapped my run out, I realized I had run quite a bit faster than I thought and was actually trucking along at a reasonable 7:44/mile pace.  Finally, once I got home from work, I headed out on my bike for my third workout of the day (I mean, kinda sorta).  I just went out for a quick half hour spin.  It was cloudier than the day before, so it was a bit chilly.  Still, it was fun.  My bike goes fast downhill.

Thursday: REST
Oh boy, I needed this rest day.  I have done a good job getting back into the groove of working out, but my sleep patterns haven’t matched that.  It didn’t help that Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were all early mornings.  I was tired, and the sleep and rest were not taken for granted.  I finally got 8+ hours of sleep and woke up feeling much better, but the day off was still welcome.  Ironman training is going to be hard…

Friday: Swim—1100yds, flip turns; Strength—15 minutes; 8-minute abs
Masters was both fun and edifying on Friday.  We had the option to do a workout or work on flip turns, and I chose flip turns because I’ve recently realized that I’m horrible at them and have committed to learning to do them properly.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
6 x 50 kick, swim
100 easy
4 x 25 underwater
Flip turns
Working on flip turn technique was surprisingly productive.  I forgot how useful it is to have a coach there when you are trying to learn new skills!  I’m hardly an expert, of course, but after about an hour of working on various flip turn drills, I know enough about what I should be doing to practice more on my own.  I’m feeling positive about the flip turn progress I’ve made in the two weeks since I decided to actually buckle down and learn how the heck to do them.  I’d like to get in a few more flip turn practice sessions on my own, and I know I still have a long way to go, but I’m feeling confident about how quickly I’m improving.  In the evening, I did my short strength routine and some core work.

Saturday: Bike—2 hours (29 miles); 8-minute abs
I finally got to go for a real bike ride.  It was a beautiful day—60° and sunny (at least at the beginning… it clouded up a little during the ride).  Rob and I went out together on one of our flatter routes.  The one downside to cycling in Utah is that there aren’t flat routes that don’t also include a lot of stop lights and city cycling.  So we headed south through Salt Lake at a nice, easy pace.  I felt surprisingly strong on the bike, especially considering I hadn’t felt all that great during the morning.  I had quite a few dizzy spells, one of which was serious enough that I almost passed out.  (This isn’t atypical for me.  I’ve been to the doctor for it, and they ran a bunch of expensive, long, and annoying tests only to kind of shrug and tell me they didn’t know what was going on.)  Despite not being 100%, though, the ride went really well.  I was riding at a fairly low effort and still making pretty good time.  I ate a Honey Stinger waffle about halfway through the ride and was pleased at how tasty it was and how well it sat in my stomach.  After about 20 miles, Rob peeled off and headed back to his place.  I still had a bit longer to go, so I started up one of the easier canyons.  I got partway up before turning around.  I timed things pretty much perfectly because I hit two hours just as I was turning into Rob’s driveway.  I had a slight headache through most of the ride which I had attributed to my weird morning, but when I took my helmet off, I saw two large red mark where it was pressing into my head and (I suspect) causing a headache.  I was surprised because I actually felt like my helmet was a bit too loose while riding.  I may have to pick up another one that fits better.  This ride was a nice confidence-booster.  This is the longest ride I’ve done in months, and the only thing that hurt during the ride was my butt from getting used to being in the saddle again.  I did some core work in the evening.

RuthsDiner
I made it just past the cute little diner that is always absurdly crowded on weekends before turning around.

Sunday: Run—60 minutes (7.17 miles); Strength—15 minutes
I spend most of the week anxious for this run.  Mostly, I was nervous about how my knee would hold up.  I’ve been taking care of it very well since the marathon and hadn’t really tested it, so I was hoping I was on the road to recovery.  However, when I woke up, my knee felt a little off, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  For this run, I used my new shoes so I could gauge how the new shoes felt as compared to the old ones.  This run was… okay.  I did have some pain, but (for better or worse) I was able to complete the run.  My knee pain actually got better after the first half hour or so as I warmed up, so I kept running instead of calling it a day.  I stopped every fifteen minutes to stretch which was actually quite effective in staving off the pain.  I’ll see how my knee feels throughout the rest of the day and then decide if I want to run or take it easy next week.  I was unpleasantly surprised at how tired my legs felt.  I spent the first half of the run lamenting my lost fitness and wondering how I got in such terrible shape after just a few easy weeks.  Then I remembered that I had gone on a two-hour bike ride the day before, which was twice as long as any other ride I’ve gone on in months.  I felt better about heavy legs after that.  My pace ended up being 8:22/mile.  I also did my abridged glute and hip strength routine.  I can tell I’m getting stronger, even after just a few weeks.  Now it’s just a matter of hoping that I can gain the necessary strength quickly and avoid irritating my IT band too much before then.

Review: CW-X 3/4 Length Stabilyx Tights

Disclaimer: I purchased these tights with my own money and of my own accord.  All opinions are mine.  I did receive a discount, but that was unrelated to this review and is explained below.

If you’ve followed my blog, you know I was in a pretty serious bind a couple weeks before my first marathon.  I was struggling with almost unmanageable pain in my IT band.  I had to bail on my final long run halfway through and hitch a ride back to Rob’s place.  After being forced to cut a tempo run short a few days later, I realized I was in trouble.

I did what I could when you can’t run with a marathon approaching quickly.  I stopped running, started icing, and did everything I could to let my IT band heal before attempting to go out and run 26.2 miles on it.  In my worry, I made an impulse purchase.  Rob told me that a co-worker of his struggled with IT band pain a while back.  This co-worker bought a pair of CW-X Stabilyx tights which were a silver bullet for his pain.  I was willing to try anything at that point, so I ponied up the money and ordered a pair myself.  These are an expensive pair of tights, retailing for about $90.  I got them for a discount because I ordered them from Rob’s company, and I ended up paying around $50.

I faced a bit of a dilemma when deciding which size to order.  I’m 5’10” and currently hovering around 130 pounds.  This put me at five pounds lighter than a medium but three inches taller than a small on the size chart.  I decided to go with the medium because at 5’10”, I was on even on the upper edge of the height range of medium.  I think I chose the best size, but I’m not sure there was a right size for someone like me.  Most of the reviews I read about the tights mentioned how difficult it was to get them on because they were so tight.  I was expecting much more of a struggle to put them on.  I don’t know if this was because mine were a little looser than ideal or because I’m used to putting on a wetsuit when most of the other reviewers weren’t.  I suspect both of those factors were in play.  However, after putting them on, I could tell that they were just long enough.  It’s pretty clear where the knee is supposed to be, and if mine were much shorter, they would not have wrapped around the knee the way they should.  So, if you are tall and underweight, finding the perfect fit may be difficult.

The CW-X Stabilyx tights are designed to support your joints and muscles.  You can see from the photos how the seams run down the leg and surround the knee.  The material in between the seams is thick and doesn’t have much give, whereas the rest of the tights are made with the typical, more forgiving running tights material.  The effect of the webbing of support is a feeling that everything is being held in place.  When I put these tights on for the first time, I felt more supported.  They were also pretty comfortable too, and that’s saying a lot coming from me.  I get very annoyed very quickly by things like tight clothing.  Oh, and according to Rob, they make my hamstrings look “monstrous,” so that’s a plus too!

More importantly, how did they work? I’d like to note that I hardly did a scientific study when testing these tights out.  I took over a week off running before I wore them for the first time to run a marathon.  I was also doubled up on Advil and Tylenol during the marathon.  I could feel the presence of my IT band pretty early on in the race, but it wasn’t pain.  After a five or so miles, I did get some pain, but it was completely manageable and did not get worse throughout the run.  During the runs I had to cut short because of my IT band pain, the pain eventually became a radiating jolt that originated in my knee but that I felt through my lower leg.  The pain was perfectly manageable and actually got better during the later miles.  Additionally, my knee didn’t stiffen up when I stopped for water or to walk which has happened in the past.

20160220_094655
The tights in action.

However, these tights were not a silver bullet for my IT band pain.  It was wishful thinking to entertain the thought that they would be, but hope springs eternal and all that.  After giving myself a rest after the marathon, I’ve started running again and have made sure to wear these tights for every run.  I’ve also been wearing them when I work on my strength training to fix the underlying issues causing my pain.  The first run, I got some IT band pain almost immediately and cut the run short.  However, I didn’t have any follow-up pain post-run.  The second run felt much better during the run, and I managed thirty minutes with very little pain.  I do plan on wearing these compression tights during my runs for the foreseeable future—either until my knee stops hurting or it just gets too warm, whichever comes first.

These tights may not have been a magical cure (for me), but that doesn’t mean they are a bad product or that they don’t do their job.  My lower body does feel more supported when I wear them, and I do think that they helped keep my IT band pain at bay during my marathon.  Compression gear in general is a good tool to have in your training gear kit, and these tights are high quality compression gear.  They are also very comfortable, despite the constriction that is a necessary part of their design.  The color choices are great too.  You can go with plain black or with a variety of more creative, colorful options.

Are they worth $90?  Is any piece of running clothing worth $90?  For this discount-hunter, probably not.  I’m glad I didn’t pay $90 for them, but then, I’m not the type to just drop $90 on any piece of clothing. (Buying cycling gear is a… difficult process for me).  However, they were well worth the discounted price that I paid.  They are useful, pretty effective, and they are comfortable enough to wear regularly.  That’s just about the dictionary description of a good piece of running gear.

Going through the motions

In the name of being honest, I have a confession to make: I’m going through the motions.

I’ve had a rough month or so, both in regards to my training and in regards to my real life.  Stolen car, stolen bike.  A plethora of relatively small but money-related issues: a parking ticket directly related to a new car, new goggles that broke after two weeks, a hole in my main pair of jeans, just that kind of thing.  All small, but they add up—especially in the shadow of buying a new car.  (And certain issues are being ignored, like the jean issue.  This means I’m wearing the same pair of noticeably-too-short jeans to work every day.)

Just in one day, I broke the heater and air conditioning control knob in my car, I lost my work ID badge, and my tea (which was not the kind I like because they were out) ended up looking like this when I tried to put some creamer in it:

GrossTea
The creamer just… curdled! 😮

My training has mirrored my life.  I’ve been struggling with IT band pain.  I went for my first run in almost two weeks over the weekend and could feel my knee after just a few minutes.  I came back dejected, frustrated, and feeling helpless.  I have yet to go for a ride on my new bike.  I was actually dressed and ready to go on Saturday (it was warm and beautiful!), but the saddle was too high and the seatpost was too long to lower it enough.  So instead of a long ride on Saturday, I had to go for an hour spin inside on Sunday.  All of this is happening in the shadow of a very disappointing marathon and with 20 weeks of very hard training looming.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m in a rut.  This week, Monday was, well, quintessentially Monday-ish.  As I sat at my desk trying to muster any sort of enthusiasm for my job, I thought to myself, “I wish I could just take the day off.”  And then I remembered my weekend which consisted almost entirely of sitting around thinking that I should be cleaning or writing or coloring or absolutely anything besides scrolling through the same pages on the Internet over and over again.  Then I thought, “Maybe work is okay.”

In short, it’s been one of those days weeks months.

I want to be excited about Ironman training.  I want to be confident that I can do well in August… or at least be confident I can finish the race.  But I simply cannot muster up the energy for those emotions.  All I can manage is showing up.  I show up to the gym or the pool and do my workout.  I’m going through the motions because sometimes, that’s all you can do.  Sometimes, going through the motions has to be enough because it’s all there is.

I want to specify that I think there is a difference between “going through the motions” and the notion of “fake it till you make it.”  When I’ve heard the term “fake it till you make it,” it’s typically been used to describe the act of pretending everything is okay—basically, putting on a happy face and pretending everything is going well, even when it’s not.  I’ve tried that before, and it has never turned out well.  When I say “going through the motions,” I mean something a little different.  I don’t want to pretend that I feel great right now.  I don’t.  I’m frustrated.  I’m cynical.  I’m not motivated.  From experience, I’ve learned that the best way to deal with those negative emotions involves first admitting that I am feeling them.  However, going through the motions—showing up and trying even if I’m not motivated—helps me avoid a spiral into an unhealthy perspective.

It’s times like this, when I have to go through the motions even when I’m not enjoying it, that I have to trust the process.  It’s not just the training process I have to trust, though I do have to trust that if I put in the work, I will gain the fitness I need.  I need to trust my emotional process.  I need to trust my own past experiences and realize that being discouraged now does not mean I will be discouraged forever.  I need to trust that going for a bike ride will make me feel better than not going for a bike ride.  I need to trust that going through the motions now will put me in a far better position once I do become excited about Ironman training again.

And I will get excited about it again.  Once I start running without pain again, once I get on my bike and go for a beautiful ride on a Saturday, once I start being able to swim in lakes and reservoirs again, eventually, something will click into place and I’ll be able to enjoy myself again.  Even now, I find myself experiencing moments where I’m glad to be where I am, whether that is on the bike, in the pool, or at the gym.

SpringMountains
My bike ride on Tuesday was one of those moments

I just keep reminding myself that I’m doing all the right things, even if I am just going through the motions.

Weekly Recap (2/29-3/06)

Monday: Swim—2500 yds
I went to Masters again and was feeling a bit more on top of my game than I was the previous Friday.  It was a hard workout for me, but I felt like I was swimming well again.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 6-beat kick
4 x 50 closed fist
6 x 100 @ 1:50 (M M F M M F)
6 x 75 @ 1:35 (M F F M F F)
6 x 50 @ 1:10 (M F F F F M)
6 x 25 @ :45 (all fast)
This workout included more rest than normal, by design.  You can see that as the distances got shorter, the fast (F) intervals started to outnumber the medium (M) intervals.  The extra rest was nice, and it allowed us to swim harder for those fast intervals.  When we were doing those 75s, though, my lane-mate was miscalculating the time and going at 1:25 instead of 1:35.  About halfway through, my tiredness overcame my inability to correct people in real life (the Internet, though… that’s a different story), and I mentioned it to him so that we could get those extra ten seconds of rest.  I asked the coach to take a look at my flip turns during practice.  It turns out, I’m just doing them flat-out wrong.  So I got an explanation, a demonstration, and some drills to work on.  I’m hoping to get to the pool at least once a week for the next few weeks to just work on flip turns.  I want to have mastered them by early June when I have a triathlon where the swim takes place in a pool.

Tuesday: Strength—30 minutes; Bike—30 minutes; 8-minute abs
I got up early and went to the gym at work to do some hip/glute strength work.  It went pretty well, though I seriously struggle with balance while doing single leg deadlifts.  It’s apparent my stabilizing muscles need some work.  With most of the exercises, I was able to feel the burn in my glutes, but I could not get the deadlifts down.  I’ll watch a few videos and then just keep working at it.  Rob picked up my helmet and shoes at work, so I was all prepared to go on my first bike ride on the new bike.  But then… the shoes were too small.  So I went to the gym and did thirty minutes on the stationary bike along with some core work later.

Wednesday: Strength—30 minutes; Bike—60 minutes
Well, I think the exercises I picked will be effective for building glute strength.  I woke up in the morning, and my butt was killing me.  With the way my schedule this week worked out, I ended up doing strength work two days in a row.  It was actually kind of nice because my soreness helped me that the single leg deadlifts that gave me trouble yesterday were working my glutes, just not so much that I could feel the burn the day before.  I also think I cracked the balance code.  On Tuesday, I tried to watch myself in the mirror to check my form while doing these.  On Wednesday, I picked a fixed point to look at instead. Duh.  After work, I went to the gym for another round on the stationary bike.  I spun for an hour while listening to This American Life.  It was a great episode, but I realized that I had read the print version just a few months ago, so it wasn’t new to me.

Thursday: REST
There’s not much to say other than that I had a very nice rest day. I ate a bunch of food and sat around a lot. It was awesome!

Friday: Swim—1700 yds; 8-minute abs
I went to Masters swim in the morning, and it ended up being a very low-key day, not really by design.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
2 x 50 distance per stroke
2 x 50 zipper
2 x 50 kick/easy swim
2 x 50 catch-up
4 x 25 underwater
3 x 200
So, our coach was gone on Friday which meant we were doing our own thing.  I was in a lane with a few women who were friends in real life, so they were chatting.  I didn’t mind the chatting… it was nice to pretend I was socially capable for a while. 😉  However, that did mean that we didn’t swim very far, hence the low yardage here.  However, the more low-key nature of the workout did allow me to practice my flip turns.  I think I’ve finally cracked the code—a little dolphin kick right as you go into the turn.  Now that I’ve got that figured out, it’s just a matter of practice.

Saturday: Run—2.05 miles (16:55); Strength—15 minutes
I was going to go on a nice bike ride with my brand new bike.  But the seatpost needs to be cut down, so that will have to wait, unfortunately.  I was quite disappointed and decided to run instead.  Just a few minutes in, I started feeling my knee, so I cut my run short.  Despite feeling some pain in my knee throughout most of the run, I didn’t experience any additional pain after the run, so I don’t think I irritated it any further.  I’m not sure exactly when to run and when to not run with this.  I want it to get better, but if a run won’t hinder healing, I don’t want to skip out on it because of some completely manageable pain.  I’ll try to run a little more next week and see how my knee holds up.  I spent almost two full weeks not running, and it’s incredibly frustrating that I still have pain after just a couple minutes.

Shoes
At least I got to lace up these bad boys again… for 15 minutes…

Sunday: Bike—60 minutes; Swim—Flip turns; 8-minute abs
After church, I went to the gym to do an hour on the stationary bike.  I left my phone at work on Friday, so I did it sans any entertainment.  It was pretty horrific, but I managed to survive.  It’ll make riding my bike all that much better next week.  After the bike, I hopped in the pool for about twenty minutes and worked on flip turns.  I think I’ve basically got them down… now it’s just a matter of getting better at them.